Habitus and Learning to Learn: Part I

In this and subsequent posts, I will attempt to revise, reconceptualize and update the concept of habitus using the theoretical and empirical resources of contemporary cognitive neuroscience and cognitive social science. I see this step as necessary if this Bourdieusian notion is to have a future in social theory. Conversely, …

When is Consciousness Learned?

Continuing with the theme of innateness and durability from my last post, consider the question: are humans born with consciousness? In a ground-breaking (and highly contested) work, the psychologist Julian Jaynes argued that if only humans have consciousness, it must have emerged at some point in our human history. In …

Cultural Cognition in Time, from Memory to Imagination

Over the past few years, I have been thinking about the concept of imagination. It emerged out of my efforts to understand the generational change in public opinion about same-sex marriage in the U.S. when it became clear to me that young and old simply imagined homosexuality and same-sex marriage in …

“Learning By Nodes”: Dendritic Learning and What It Means (Or Not) for Cultural Sociology

In a paper published earlier this year in Scientific Reports and further discussed in a later ACS Chemical Neuroscience article, a group of researchers argues that learning might not function like we previously thought. The researchers (Sardi et al. 2018a, 2018b) explain that the dominant conceptualization in cognitive neuroscience of …

Limits of innateness: Are we born to see faces?

Sociologists tend to be skeptical of claims individuals are consistent across situations, as a recent exchange on Twitter exemplifies. This exchange was partially spurred by revelations that the famous Stanford Prison Experiment (which supposedly showed people will quickly engage in behaviors commensurate with their assigned roles even if it means …

Beyond Good Old-Fashioned Ideology Theory, Part Two

In part one, I examined two recent frameworks for understanding ideology (Jost and Martin) and explained how both serve as alternatives to the good old-fashioned ideology theory (GOFIT). Ultimately, I concluded that Martin’s (2015) model has specific advantages over Jost’s (2006) model, though the connection between ideology and “practical mastery …

Beyond Good Old-Fashioned Ideology Theory, Part One

The concept of ideology is surely one of the sacred cow concepts of sociology (and the social sciences more generally) and is one of the special few that circulates widely outside the ivory tower. It is also a concept that is arguably the most indebted of all to the presumption that …

Culture, Cognition and “Socialization”

Culture and cognition studies in sociology are mainly concerned with the construction,  transmission, and transformation of shared stocks of knowledge. This was clear in the classical theoretical foundations of contemporary work in the sociology of culture laid out in Parsons’s middle period functionalism (Parsons 1951) and in Berger and Luckmann’s …

What’s Cultural About Analogical Mapping?

Analogical mapping is a cognitive process whereby a particular target is understood by analogizing from a particular source. For example, Lakoff and Johnson (1999) have observed that people often reason about love metaphorically as a journey. In a previous post I discussed some experimental evidence supporting the claim that activating …

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